Only an eye test can detect the early signs of macular degeneration, Australia’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss. With one in seven Australians over 50 now having some evidence of the disease make sure that you visit one of the four Envision Optical locations on the Gold Coast and Tweed Heads for a comprehensive eye health examination this month.
Macular Degeneration can result in progressive and painless loss of your central vision. Regular eye exams are important as the earlier Macular Degeneration is detected, the better the visual outcome.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration (AMD) blurs the sharp, central, fine detail vision that you need for “straight-ahead” viewing. AMD affects the macula, the central area of the retina at the back of your eye that allows us to read, drive, recognise faces, see colours and perform all activities of your daily life.. AMD mainly affects older people with the following incidence: 4%>40yrs, 9%>50yrs, 23%>65yrs, 31%>80 yrs have some form of AMD.
What Causes macular degeneration?
A lifetime of exposure to UV light, poor diet, production of free radicals and reduced blood flow to the retina may result in abnormal changes in the thin pigmented layer called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). There are two categories of AMD:
- DRY: In the early stages there is an accumulation of yellowish deposits called drusen, as well as a loss of pigment cells in the RPE. This may progress with greater areas of pigment degeneration and scarring. This will result in greater blur in the central vision. 90% of AMD is the dry form
- WET: This occurs when abnormal blood vessels under the retina start to grow up through the retina and the breaks in the pigment layer. These new blood vessels are weak and porous and tend to leak and bleed quite easily. This can result in fluid build up and swelling, as well as bleeding (hence WET). In this case damage to the macula and loss of vision can be very rapid. If not treated promptly, the fluid can leave significant scars, which result in permanent severe loss of central vision.
The symptoms of Macular Degeneration may include one or more of the following:
- Difficulty reading or any other activity with fine vision
- Distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent
- Distinguishing faces becomes a problem
- Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision
At our 4 locations on the Gold Coast at Burleigh Heads, Burleigh Waters, Nerang and Tweed Heads South, we see patients every day who show the signs of macular degeneration. Early detection is the key to ensure effective preventative measures are taken, and treatments started when needed. Next week we’ll talk more about assessment risk factors and prevention.